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Swirls of plankton decorate the Arabian Sea

Winter blooms of Noctiluca scintillans may be disrupting the marine ecosystem

By
12:27pm, March 9, 2016
satellite image of plankton in Arabian Sea

SCINTILLATING SWIRLS  In a satellite image taken February 3, plankton blooms appear as green whorls in the Arabian Sea. In recent years, an algae-filled plankton species has been changing the ecology of these waters. 

Masses of plankton add swirls of green to the blue waters of the Arabian Sea in this February 3 snapshot from NASA’s Aqua satellite (Iran and Pakistan at top of the image; India, to the right). Most of the vibrant color probably comes from algae living in the single-celled bodies of the dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans.

N. scintillans started appearing in the Arabian Sea in large numbers in the early 2000s, blooming in the winter months. It seems that the plankton, which love low-oxygen waters, have made a happy home in the increasingly oxygen-poor Arabian Sea, says marine ecologist Joaquim Goes of Columbia University.

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